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Poll: Disability Insurance – Yes or No?

I am set to graduate residency this June 2013 and among all the other things on my to-do list such as credentialing paperwork for my future employer is to explore disability insurance. Because I know very little about insurance, I decided to do some research.
  • What is disability insurance?
  • Why should I get it?
  • Do I need it as a physician?
  • Do I need it as an emergency physician?

Take a poll and see the crowd-sourced results…


According to Wikipedia, “Disability Insurance (DI) is a form of insurance that insures the beneficiary’s earned income against the risk that a disability creates a barrier for a worker to complete the core functions of their work.” It’s basically a form of insurance that will give you money if you become injured and are unable to work.

In researching if other EM physicians had disability insurance, I polled my physician friends via Twitter and Facebook. These are a few of the comments that I received:

  • “You are much more likely to become disabled then die. Has to be EM specific”
  • “Absolutely need it. Get it in residency, you can increase amount later. More important than life insurance.”
  • “Yes! Better rates and discounts available to residents.”
  • “Make sure you can purchase more later when your salary increases without another physical.”
But the pesky question still remains:

WHY should I get disability insurance?

It comes down to the eternal question of risk. It is the same question that is asked about any form of insurance. What is the risk that I will become disabled and require disability insurance? In the 2012 NY Times article, according to the Social Security Administration, a 20 year old person in 2011 had a 30% chance of being disabled at least for 6 months before retirement. But then they cite another NY Times article from 2010 which claims that the statistics involving disability vary WILDLY depending on whom you ask.

So what is real and what is not real? Should I get disability insurance in case I might not be able to perform my job? My job, which entails intubating people, placing central lines and transvenous pacers, and being mobile enough to examine hallway patients in the tiniest of spaces due to ED overcrowding? It’s a physical job, and don’t forget that most of this must be done urgently (and many times emergently).

There are many other considerations for disability insurance when debating whether to get it.

  • How long can you afford to not get paid if you cannot work due to injury?
  • How much disability does your current job provide?
  • How much do you have in savings?

Other important considerations

As a woman, disability insurance is more expensive than it is for men, but the rates are not so disproportional if you get it during residency.

  • Partial coverage is very important to consider. For example if you injury your ankle, you are still able to work, but maybe not as many hours as before. Many policies will provide for partial coverage.
  • Own occupation policy. A very important caveat to have in your policy is this contingency which states that disability prevents you from doing your OWN job. Therefore, as an emergency physician, I will not be expected to go back to work in the hospital as a radiologist, even though both are physician occupations. My OWN job trained me specifically for the ED.

What do you think? Any opinion and thought is welcome!

Nikita Joshi, MD

Nikita Joshi, MD

ALiEM Chief People Officer and Associate Editor
Clinical Instructor
Department of Emergency Medicine
Stanford University
Nikita Joshi, MD

Latest posts by Nikita Joshi, MD (see all)

  • Nikita,
    As always fantastic post. This is not something we get taught as medical students or residents, but important. What you are having to go through now, is what I had to do 2 years ago.
    It is important to know what your job gives you in disability insurance, before acquiring a private form of the same. The second component is there is short term and long term disability. It is important to distinguish between the two. What you are referring to I think, is long term disability. Most jobs do a great job covering short term disability, but long term is not as good.
    I personally have gotten a private long term disability to supplement what my job would give in the case of an injury and I cannot perform the tasks required of me at my job.
    Again fantastic post, love your topics. Keep up the great work.


  • Agree with Salim.
    I have a long term disability own occ plan that allows me to continue living as I do now in case I have an injury that prevents me from being an EP.
    I even went so far as to add a rider that puts money into my IRA so I can keep my retirement, since my disability runs out at age 70.
    The name of the game though is still “insurance.” The likelihood that you’ll need it is probably not all that great. But if you do need it, the likelihood that you can get along without it is not so great.

  • Tom

    For some international perspective European equality legislation now means male and female policies cost the same in the UK. However if you have an existing policy then you’ll probably not see any renegotiation benefit as your premiums will have gone up with age.
    Tom Mitchell

    • That’s fascinating Tom, thanks for commenting and sharing your international experience!

  • Hi everyone Thanks for such polite info. The information which you provided on this blog is truly useful and informative for each person. Disability insurance is designed to provide a monthly income benefit, if the insured cannot work regularly due to a disability. Similar to Critical illness insurance, the policy owner, insured, and beneficiary is usually the same person.

  • Salim’s right! We should know what benefits and insurance claims our jobs cover before getting private ones. Whether I need a disability insurance or not, I avail it and get myself covered with every claim that I could. Accidents are everywhere and I never know when I’ll need one, so being prepared is better than regretting in the end.

  • Doctordisabilityshop

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